Making cars more efficient is only one step in improving personal mobility in the future. The other, some will tell you, is making the roads themselves a more efficient place to travel.

If the roads were empty, picking the greenest route and keeping an ideal pace wouldn't be a problem, but other traffic makes this a nuisance.

That's where companies like Ford come in.

The automaker has just started testing its latest car-to-car and car-to-infrastructure technology on European roads, using a fleet of 20 specially-equipped S-Max minivans.

The aim of the 'Safe Intelligent Mobility - Testfield Germany' (simTD) program is to improve traffic safety and mobility, and the 20 S-Max vehicles join a fleet of 120 other vehicles that test several aspects of the technology, with everything from in-car internet to advance obstacle warning systems proving itself over thousands of miles of testing.

Included in the project are technologies such as Electronic Brake Light, in which a vehicle delivers a message to those in the vicinity when it carries out an emergency braking maneuver. This not only warns cars immediately around that the vehicle is braking suddenly, but also those out of sight--so a driver rounding a blind turn already knows to slow down.

An Obstacle Warning System relays a similar message if a vehicle encounters obstacles in the road, alerting traffic behind; Traffic Sign Assistant ensures the driver is aware of speed limits--both permanent and temporary--and other road signs; and Public Traffic Management identifies traffic scenarios and their impact on journeys.

In-car internet access allows drivers to be more in control of other aspects of their journey--Ford gives the example that a driver could pay for their parking en-route, letting them simply park and walk away at the end of their journey.

All of these technologies are geared towards not only improving the safety of our roads, but ensuring it's easier to drive around, too--directing drivers away from traffic, or letting them make earlier decisions on queues and potential hazards.

On a freeway, for example, that might allow you and cars around you to slow down a little earlier if there's congestion ahead, reducing "phantom queues", where increasingly slow traffic leads to unnecessary stops.

Data from the latest tests will be collated with information from Ford's other programs, and is further supported by funding into improved infrastructure.

Will technology like this make traffic queues a thing of the past? Leave us your thoughts in the comments below.


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